BELLECHESTER — Results of a two-week program monitoring two feedlots owned by Circle K Family Farms show no violations of air quality.
Steve Schmidt, a pollution control specialist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said the results from the Holst I and Jeff Finishing feedlots were well below the threshold for a violation of the MPCA’s hydrogen sulfide standards.
At Holst I, about two miles northwest of Bellechester, the highest reading was 16 parts per billion of hydrogen sulfide for a 30-minute average. At Jeff Finishing, a second Kohlnhofer site about four miles northeast of Bellechester, the highest reading was 9 ppb. All readings were taken near the feedlots’ property lines.
That, said Yon Kohlnhofer, who owns the feedlots along with his brothers, should end the testing.
“The world is full of limited resources, and the PCA has limited resources,” he said. “Is this the best use of limited resources? I’m going to guess no. But they’ve publicly made a statement that they would test us twice.”
That, Schmidt said, remains the plan for now. Part of the reason to continue testing the sites is to replicate the conditions of the people who complained about the feedlots.
In this case, that would be the group of individuals who have been battling a proposed new Kohlnhofer feedlot northeast of Zumbrota. Those individuals, along with the Land Stewardship Project, conducted their own monitoring last summer. While the MPCA cannot use their results — which showed higher readings than the recent tests, but no violations — it does want to try to replicate the conditions under which their results were obtained.
That means two weeks of testing per feedlot site, Schmidt said. “The plan right now is to go back out to both sites for a week each,” he said.
Between the recent testing results and the results from MPCA testing last October, Kohlnhofer said that should be enough to satisfy both the agency and those individuals who asked for the tests that the feedlots are compliant.”If you look at the results, the vast majority of the readings are zero,” he said.
The agency is testing the sites because the LSP monitoring served as a complaint against the feedlots. Normally, Schmidt said, the agency looks for complaints from individuals who live near a feedlot before conducting air-quality tests.
Another feedlot — this one not owned by the Kohlnhofers and with approximately 720 animal units — will also be tested this summer, Schmidt said.
Each sets of tests costs about $1,000, Schmidt said. And if the next set of data for the two Kohlnhofer feedlots is similar to the current set, it’s likely the MPCA won’t return without a specific reason.
“Unless we would receive new complaints about the sites, we’d be done with them,” he said.
Kristi Rosenquist, who is part of the group that monitored the Kohlnhofer sites last summer with LSP, said the two weeks of testing is a far cry from what the MPCA had originally promised.
“We still have the outstanding question of why the PCA won’t do what they said they would do, an entire season of monitoring,” she said. That would constitute at least 13 weeks of nonstop 30-minute averages.
Rosenquist said that when the state moved from outdoor manure pits to indoor feedlots and underground manure tanks, it promised to test those sites to see if the underground pits were safer. Instead, the agency has not conducted continuous air monitoring in more than a decade.
“We spent a lot of time, energy and money to do the PCA’s job for them last summer,” Rosenquist said of her group. “And they said, ‘You’re right. We’ll do our job.’ But they didn’t.”
Rosenquist said that when it comes to air quality and water quality near feedlots, it’s disingenuous for the MPCA to say it is regulating the industry when it does not conduct sufficient and stringent testing.
“When you push a lot of paper around but are doing no testing, I don’t know how you can say you’re regulated,” she said.